The work of women in environmentalism has been essential in the global push for a sustainable and equitable future. Through focusing on intersectional environmental justice, these women pioneers for the environment are shining examples of the ingenuity needed to create a better world. So we wanted to honour them for International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month.
Jane Addams legacy mostly starts with her founding of the Settlement House Movement. Through it, Addams wanted to challenge the way society was moving towards urbanisation and all the dangers that came with it.
As a presenter, podcaster and writer, Claudia Ayuso has created a network of art and media centred on environmental issues, social justice and human rights.
Currently the President of the Natural Resources Defence Council (NRDC), Frances Beinecke’s work saw her appointed to the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Spill and awarded the Rachel Carson Award.
Through co-founding the website 350.org, May Boeve connected leaders in the fight against climate change throughout the world.
Most of us know about Erin Brockovich from the film in her name, with the lead role played by Julia Roberts. Erin took her fight for the environment directly to the Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) following their contamination of groundwater in Hinckley, California, which resulted in a $333 million settlement for affected locals.
Rachel Carlson’s expose Silent Spring has been essential in exposing misinformation approved by the chemical industry, and her legacy is continued through the Environmental Protection Agency.
Also known as the “Queen of Recycling”, Isatou Ceesay is the Gambian activist behind the One Plastic Bag movement in Gambia.
Anna Botsford Comstock
Anna Botsford Comstock was not only the first female professor at Cornel university, but the outdoor nature studies program she developed for children saw a love of nature reach a new generation.
Often seen as a pioneer of ocean exploration, Sylvia Earle launched the award-winning Mission Blue, an organisation built around marine protection.
Rosalie Barrow Edge
In her dedication to protect all species in the animal kingdom, Rosalie Barrow Edges founded the Emergency Conservation Committee. She is recognised as one of the women pioneers of environmentalism.
Berta Isabel Caceres Flores
Through founding the Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH), Berta Isabel Caceres led the line in helping the Lenca people of Honduras protect indigenous wildlife.
Dian Fossey is an American primatologist who gained renown for her ground-breaking work with the reclusive mountain gorillas of Rwanda. Her anti-poaching and conservation advocacy saw her come up against hostile poachers throughout her career, but her legacy remains in the fight to protect the beautiful gorillas in Rwanda.
Inspired by other women environmental pioneers like Jane Goodall and Dian Fossey, Biruté Galdikas went on to study orang-utans in the wild through her research project in Borneo. Her research revolutionised our understanding of orang-utans and has been central in primate conservation efforts.
Jane Goodall’s field research and love of chimpanzees saw her develop yeo fundamental institutes for conservation – the Jade Goodall Institute and Roots and Shoots.
Kate Hampton was not only key to the creation of the Paris Agreement, but her work through the Observer Research Foundation in India has been part of the push towards sustainable development.
A Native American environmentalist, Winona LaDuke founded the White Earth Land Recovery Project and the Honor the Earth organisation, both of which have been essential to restoring indigenous environmental initiatives in Minnesota.
A non-binary environmental activist, blogger and MSc Student, Izzy McLeod is the creator of The Quirky Environmentalist – an educational blog on sustainable living and environmental issues.
Wangari Muta Maathai
Professor Wangari Muta Maathai’s intersectional approach to both social justice and environmental issues has been a lauded resource in the fight for environmental justice in East and Central Africa. For it, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004.
“You cannot protect the environment unless you empower people, you inform them, and you help them understand that these resources are their own, that they must protect them.” Wangari Muta Maathai
Known as one of the “grandmothers of conservation”, Margaret Murie played a central role in the passage of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, which saw 104 million acres of natural wildlife in Alaska preserved.
A Ugandan environmental activist, Vanessa Nakate has demonstrated, organised and educated against the rising temperatures in Uganda and the global south.
After leasing 30 acres of land in City Park, Kate Sessions ended up planting 100 trees a year in the barren park. Balboa Park stands as a legacy of her efforts in environmentalism in urban spaces.
An Indian scholar, environmental activist and food sovereignty advocate, Dr Vanda Shiva has fought for an anti-globalisation and ecofeminism approach to the environment both in India and globally. Her approach has always been one of diversity and unity, both in how we understand the world we live in and the people we share it with.
“The liberation of the earth, the liberation of women, the liberation of all humanity is the next step of freedom we need to work for, and it’s the next step of peace that we need to create.”
Marina Silva is a Brazilian environmentalist and politician whose education and advocacy work around the Brazilian Amazon spans over 40 years, using her platform and position to advocate for environmental protection, sustainable development and social justice issues in Brazil and the Amazon rainforest.
Marjory Stoneman Douglas
Marjory Stoneman Douglas’ environmental efforts are renowned for their impact on Florida’s natural water systems. Her work in protecting the regions ecosystems through her boot The Everglades: River of Grass has gone on to influence public opinion and fuel efforts to protect the Everglades.
Greta Thunberg is one of the most recognisable environmental activists in the world, and she has used her platform to speak to both a young generation of activists and the United Nations.
As the Co-Director of Quadrature Climate Foundation,,, Bryony Worthington has promoted environmental education and action at the highest level of Uk governance.
This is just a shortlist, there are so many people contributing to this important issue. Including you! Small changes make a big difference.
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